T.E.N. Future Transport News 16th January 2015: Chevy Volt, Chevy Bolt, Swapping Cars

Welcome to T.E.N! Short for Transport Evolved News, T.E.N. is recorded every Friday to help your weekend get off to a flying start by making sure you haven’t missed the big future transport news stories of the week.

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Weekly show about future cars and future car technology. This week news about: Nissan and NASA’s autonomous vehicle partnership; 2016 Chevrolet Volt reveal; Chevrolet Bolt EV Reveal; Volkswagen Cross Coupe GTE Concept; Volkswagen Golf GTE; Ford’s car-swap scheme; ending range anxiety in the next-gen LEAF; Audi Q7 e-tron SUV.

Just ten minutes in length, T.E.N. delivers the evolved transport news in a bite-sized format, and you’ll find links to all of the stories we cover in an accompanying article blow.

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What follows, as always, is our raw script for the show today. (It’s why things are sometimes written out in words rather than numbers — and why we sometimes make some errors!) You’ll find it isn’t always quite identical to the video above, but we know some of you like to follow through and click on the stories as we discuss them. Enjoy! 

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Space-Age Partners

Okay, so this first story actually broke last Friday after we’d already filmed the show, but we think you’ll agree it’s cool enough to get an honorable mention in this week’s show.

Last Friday, Japanese automaker Nissan and NASA — yes, the folks who send big rockets into space and do super-cool science experiments on earth and beyond — announced a joint five-year partnership into autonomous vehicles.

Building on the advances each has made to date, Nissan and NASA will focus initially on building a proof-of-concept remotely-controlled autonomous vehicle with the aim to have a demonstration vehicle travelling the roads near NASA’s Californian AMES research centre by the end of this year.

Ultimately however, it could lead to autonomous vehicles hitting the roads both on planet earth and beyond — as far afield as Mars for example. Totally cool.

2016 Chevrolet Volt is finally here

After months of sneak peaks — and we really do mean months — the twenty sixteen Chevrolet Volt received its official unveiling on Monday at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

As we’ve discussed before, the new Volt is leaner and meaner than its predecessor, but this week we found out about those promised improvements in fuel efficiency and all-electric range.

Internally, GM is claiming a fifty mile EV-operation from a slightly larger 18 point 4 kilowatt hour lithium-ion battery pack, and a range-extending gas mileage of fourty one mpg combined.

Official prices have yet to be set, but we can confirm that the Volt is now available as a five-seat hatchback — that’s if you’re the kind of person who doesn’t mind sitting in the middle seat straddling the battery pack to prove that fact. We’re not.

Like a Bolt out of the blue?

Also unveiled by GM in its official Detroit auto show press conference was a concept car it has ill-advisedly decided to call the Chevrolet Bolt. No, we’re not kidding. While the rest of the world has difficulty differentiating Bolt and Volt, apparently Chevy thinks it’s just fine.

Anyway enough of the name and onto the car itself, which is a 200-mile concept car that GM says is a possible look of a future, already-promised 200-mile ‘affordable — and that means around the thirty thousand dollar mark — electric car.

The Bolt (that’s Bolt with a B) seats four, has plenty of on-board tech, and is styled to work well in the busy urban jungle of today’s megacities. But as for that name? We’ll pass for now.

Cross Coupe GTE

Staying with concept cars and Detroit for a second, Volkswagen used this year’s North American International Auto Show to debut the third of three concept plug-in suvs which it says lay the path towards a promised seven-seat plug-in hybrid SUV which will enter the market at the end of next year.

Called the Volkswagen Cross Coupe GTE Concept, the five — not seven — seat plug-in reminds us a little of a cross between some of Chrysler’s more recent station wagons and a Range Rover Sport, but features a massive three point six litre V-6 gasoline engine and two electric motors to give the perfect balance of power, performance and efficiency.

Of course, this is no Tesla Model X, but Volkswagen says the Cross Coupe GTE — the GTE being an allusion to the GTi performance name badge — can travel around twenty miles in electric-only mode, but can also accelerate from standstill to sixty miles per hour in six seconds and return an overall economy rating of seventy mpg

We know lots of our viewers will view this as yet another ‘inadequate’ attempt at a plug-in, but as far as we’re concerned this concept — and subsequent plug-in production models — will be doing the right thing if they ultimately  get more people plugging in.

Golf GTE goes on sale

With what we just said fresh in our minds, now’s a good time to tell you that the Volkswagen Golf GTE has now officially gone on sale in the UK, priced at £33,035 before incentives.

Marketed as Volkswagen’s sporty, no-compromise plug-in, the Golf GTE marries a 75-kilowatt electric motor and 8.8 kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack with a one point four litre, TSI direct-injection gasoline engine to provide a plug-in hybrid that’s capable of up to 31 miles of claimed range on the NEDC test cycle but can also travel longer-distance using gasoline alone.

Sold alongside the GTi and GTD performance gasoline and diesel models respectively, the GTE is designed to get hardened petrol heads who wouldn’t give the all-electric e-Golf the time of day behind the wheel of a plug-in, and from our brief time with it last year, we think it’s a great all-rounder for someone who needs electric during the week and longer-distance capabilities at the weekend.

What’s more, the Golf GTE will be available at all of Volkswagen’s UK dealers, unlike the e-Golf and e-Up, which are currently only available at designated electric car specialist VW garages. If it gets more people plugging in, we’re all for it.

Swap your car

If we had a pound or a dollar for every time someone told us they’d buy a more fuel-efficient car save for their once-a-year trip to see granny in Scotland, we’d be really rich right now — but now a new car-swap scheme could be the answer to our eco-friendly dreams.

Enter Car Swap, a pilot project currently being trailed at Ford’s corporate offices in Dearborn Michigan.  It’s a web-based application that makes it easy for car owners to swap cars with someone else when their own car doesn’t meet their immediate needs.

Say for example that you need to tow a trailer full of garden waste to the local tip, but your car doesn’t have a tow bar? Simply log into the app, find someone with a towbar-equipped truck or car, and swap your vehicles for the day.

Or perhaps you want an electric car but need to make that long-distance trip once in a while? Now there’s no excuse to not plugging in, because you can swap your car when you need to for something that goes further between stops.

For now, the scheme is a pilot project, but we’d really like this to become reality for everyone some time soon.

No more range anxiety

Japanese automaker Nissan is so confident of its next-generation battery technology that it thinks it will eliminate range anxiety moving forward.

That’s according to Nissan’s Phillipe Klein, who said this week at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit that he believes the majority of drivers won’t get range anxiety when Nissan launches its improved battery chemistry in a few years’ time.

The new pack, which will debut about the same time as the expected launch of Nissan’s next-generation LEAF electric car, is generally expected to yield a range about double that of today’s LEAF without taking any more space up for the battery pack. But while Nissan has previously confirmed a double-range LEAF is on the way, Klein only hinted that the new battery pack would hit the market about the same time as the new LEAF.

As for range? While we’d like to think that a one hundred and fifty mile battery pack will be enough for most of us, we’re sure someone, somewhere will want more. That’s just human nature.

Heat Pumped.

And finally, we head back to the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, where Volkswagen’s luxury arm Audi has launched the all-new Q7 SUV along with an e-tron plug-in hybrid variant which will go on sale later this year.

Like the Volvo XC90 T8, the all-new Q7 e-tron plug-in hybrid will sit at the top of the range, offering those with the extra cash the choice of benefiting from the performance boost and economy improving qualities of a plug-in hybrid drivetrain

Unlike the XC90 T8 however, the Q7 e-tron will feature a permanently-connected four-wheel drive system — mechanically rather than electrically linked — and a heat pump for in-car climate control. More efficient than traditional resistive heaters, the heat pump should help the Q7 e-tron reach its claimed 35-miles of all-electric range, although we’re wondering how many miles it will manage in real-life before its monstrous V-6 diesel engine roars into life.

Given this generation Q7 is more than 700 pounds lighter than its predecessor however, we’re hoping some Audi customers really will get into the hypermiling spirit to see just how far they can go on electricity alone.


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